Members of the pro-democracy youth movement Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA) have been arrested as they carried out a protest outside the offices of the African Union (AU) in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, IBTimes UK has learned.
Activists and rights groups have been urging global powers, including the US and EU, to use strong financial pressure to ensure President Joseph Kabila steps down at the end of his second mandate on 19 December, as stated in the Constitution, and end repression against dissenting voices.
After six weeks of political manoeuvring, the so-called "national dialogue" to address the escalating political crisis concluded on 18 October with a agreement signed by ruling and opposition parties and members of the civil society.
LUCHA, which had attended the first round of the talks, pulled out of the dialogue, and has been carrying out a number of actions to protest the dialogue's conclusions.
"We had a sitting outside the offices of the African Union to denounce the agreement concluding the national dialogue sanctioned by the bloc, including facilitator Edam Kodjo. We were calling on the AU leaders who will be attending the AU Summit in Luanda to listen to the voice of the Congolese people who disapprove of this agreement which violates our Constitution," a LUCHA member, Bienvenu, told IBTimes UK from Kinshasa.
A fringe of the opposition that did not participate in the talks had been urged the AU to change the facilitator, Togolese Kodjo, for the national dialogue in the country because it believes Kodjo is biased – as it alleges the Togolese has too many ties with Kabila.
"We had informed the local authorities here that we were going to protest, that we had a letter to hand, but the police arrested some of us after we arrived outside the AU. We did not want to run away because we had committed no offence, but some had to. But the police came and put (some of the activists) in pick-ups and took them to the police. We didn't even have the time to hand in our memo(randum)."
According to the activist, the detainees were taken to police headquarters in Kinshasa after their arrest at 11:15am local time.
Bienvenu confirmed LUCHA did not know why the 12 members were arrested. "For the moment, I don't know what charges will be pinned on them. We demand their immediate and unconditional release."
At the time of writing, the local authorities are yet to outline charges against the activists.
Opening on 27 October, the summit is a joint promotion by the International Conference on Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), United Nations and African Union, aimed at discussing the latest developments in the DRC.